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We all encounter problems, but we don’t all handle them same way. Among problem solving approaches, one of the more unique – and effective – is the entrepreneur’s. Unlike most people (who see problems as annoying interruptions) obstacles are literally an entrepreneur’s specialty. If you run a business, plan to run one, or simply want a better way to analyze problems, consider the methods and thought processes discussed below:
Totally Solution-Oriented ;First and foremost, entrepreneurial problem solving is solution-oriented. If the server crashes, no time is spent ruminating about who’s fault it was or who to blame. None of this matters at all (at least not in the moment.) All an entrepreneur sees is that sales are at a dead stop until the server gets fixed. “Time is money”, she might say while diligently hustling to get the server back online. No matter what the problem,the solution is what counts. Blame, excuses and other distractions are all secondary to getting the job done.
Break It Down Most people view a problem as a gigantic, terrifying “blob.” A car accident, for instance, is seen as exactly that: a car accident, which absolutely and totally “sucks.” An entrepreneur is more likely to break the problem down into smaller pieces. While he certainly would not be happy about the car accident, he would deal with it in steps, rather than confronting it all at once.
For starters, he might determine what his insurance payout would be. Upon learning that, he might investigate how much of his personal savings can go toward the repairs. If the accident was the other driver’s fault, he would follow up with their insurance company and seek payment from them. He would then visit multiple nearby mechanics to find the lowest repair estimate. It wouldn’t be enjoyable, but the problem would be solved – piece by piece – as quickly as possible.
Counterfactual Simulation Entrepreneurs are extremely adept at what Personal MBA author Josh Kaufman calls counterfactual simulation This refers to the highly developed mental skill of contemplating different actions before taking them. As Josh explains, “you assume the event or state you’re simulating is already true. The mind fills in the gaps between A (where you are) and B (where you want to be.)”
In other words: rather than assuming what you want is unreachable, you assume that you’re absolutely going to get it and think about how. Is your startup struggling to find customers because it has no track record? Well, how do you overcome that? What actual steps are necessary for people to see you as a credible business? Counterfactual simulation is about working backward from the outcome in your mind before moving toward it physically.
Plan B Entrepreneurs never have just one plan. Having been down this road before, they know that the first plan is rarely enough. Circumstances change, and to be successful, you need to be able to change with them. More often than not, a backup plan will be necessary to see things through and accomplish the objective. That’s why a veteran entrepreneur goes into battle with one or more “plan B’s” at his disposal.
This actually goes together with counterfactual simulation. As you’re envisioning how events will unfold, look for ways that things could go wrong. Anticipate potential obstacles and what they would mean for your plan. Your “plan B” is what you would then do if those problems actually happened.
Look To The Past Entrepreneurs agree with the saying “news is old things happening to new people.” They know that virtually any problem they encounter has confronted other businesses in the past. They aren’t the first company to hire a rotten employee or get stiffed by a customer. Thus, where others might exhaust themselves re-inventing the wheel, an entrepreneur is more apt to look at how prior entrepreneurs solved the issue they’re experiencing.
This is done in any number of ways: reading books, searching for case studies, even asking fellow business owners for guidance. No matter how it’s done, looking to the past allows entrepreneurs to skip panic mode and go straight to the solution.
Look For The Opportunity Last but not least, the best entrepreneurs look for the opportunity in problems. In The Great Game of Business , Jack Stack offers a prime example of this. Let’s say you discover a wasteful process in your office that costs the company $100 per day. A true entrepreneur does not see this as a problem – not for long. By investigating what happened and making that neglected process more efficient, the company not only stops the $100/day loss, but creates a net improvement – a net gain
This is common in the business world. A problem with real data or metrics to explain what went wrong can steer you in the direction of an improvement. But you’ll only capitalize on this by looking for the opportunity in problems.
Image courtesy lobo235
About the Author: Jerrimie Allen is a freelance writer for Invesp. Invesp helps businesses improve their online revenue, reduce customer acquisition cost, and provide their visitors with a better user experience through conversion rate optimization and landing page design